PzKpfw II

The PzKpfw II or Panzer II was originally been designed as a stopgap solutions while larger, more advanced tanks as the PzKpfw III en PzKpfw III were developed. Design work on the Panzer II began in January 1934, the first experimental model was ready in February 1935. The final design was based on the Panzer I, but larger, and with a turret mounting a 20 mm anti-tank gun. Production began in 1935, but it took another eighteen months for the first combat-ready tank to be delivered.


The PzKpfw II was the Wehrmacht's first real main battle tank in the late 1930s. Production of the tank started in May 1935 and 1,223 units were available at the outbreak of war. Here we see a PzKpfw II during an exercise in 1939 - 1940


The Panzer II was designed before the experience of the Spanish Civil War of 1936–39 showed that protection against armour-piercing shells was necessary for tanks to survive on a modern battlefield. Prior to that, armour for tanks a the Panzer I and Panzer II was designed to stop machine gun fire and high-explosive shell fragments. The Panzer III and Panzer IV, in fact the next generation of tanks, were better protected against these armoured piercing shells.


Here a Panzer II of the Deutsches Afrika Korps on the shores of north Africa. A crew member is carefully placing a flag as recognition for airplanes, which were sometimes as dangerous for their own people as for the enemy.


Alhough beeing a stopgap solution the PzKpfw II nonetheless went on to play an important role in the early years of World War II, especially during the Polish and French campaigns: the Panzer II was the most numerous tank in the German Panzer divisions at the beginning of the war. By the end of 1942, it had been largely removed from front line service and it was used for training and on secondary fronts.


Around 1,900 Panzer II were manufactured from 1935 to the end of 1942. In 1938 Daimler-Benz received the order to revise the Panzerkampfwagen II with the aim of higher speed and mobility. The result was the Panzer II Ausf. D / E, which was assigned to the light divisions as a high-speed combat vehicle and was mostly loaded onto low-loader trailers for road transport.


Although production of the tank itself ceased by 1942,  its chassis remained in use as the basis of several other armored vehicles, chiefly self-propelled artillery and tank destroyers such as the Wespe and Marder II respectively.